One of my colleagues changed her diet recently to a vegetarian one (which I'm 100% supportive of, being vegetarian myself) but with her just changing she's gone for the obvious foods for protein intake (such as eggs for example, when warm they really do smell) and this is every lunch, she must really like them.

We're only a small company with an office space that's open (including the kitchen) currently I'm aligning my lunch breaks (it's highly flexible when you take your lunch break here) with hers because I really can't concentrate with the smell around. This also isn't so much of a problem besides maybe one to two days a week where personal matters entail that I need to take a different lunch break to hers. This is a fine solution but it still really smells and we don't currently have any policy for smelly foods (besides fish, which is a unofficial given as it's a lingerer).

I was thinking a solution would be to kindly offer her some recipes to some nice bean based recipes (which I currently eat) but I don't want to come off disrespectful, arrogant or passive aggressive in any way shape or form.

More along the lines of "Hey, I've just finished using this recipe book and seeing as you've changed your diet recently I thought it could come in use"

But I don't think I've known anyone to ever 'finish' using a recipe book and she may take offense to this.

Would this be a valid solution? because losing any productive time coding isn't productive at all.

Could any experts offer any insight on this? in the least passive aggressive way possible.

Edit: We eat at our desks too because the office space is far too small to allow any space for such an area, we have around ten employees at our company (we're just a small start-up, hence the no policy on smelly foods as of yet)

  • Your problem is not your colleagues food, it is the open kitchen. Which kinds of smells are distracting are mostly a matter of taste. To me, for example, the smell of beans would be much more distracting than the smell of eggs. (Unless the eggs are rotten.) – skymningen Apr 18 '17 at 9:57
  • @skymningen I'll edit my question to add some context to the office environment, because currently the open kitchen isn't the whole problem. We also eat our foods at our desk too and the office space is very small which doesn't have any space for a dining area/seats (we only have around 10 employees) and as of yet there have been no complaints on neither mine or my product managers bean based recipes (for the last year) and for the lack of any alienation towards my colleague, others have mentioned the same thing about the eggs and other seasonings they are using. – BIW Apr 18 '17 at 10:02
  • So what is your actual question? Whether controlling a coworker's lunch choices is appropriate? I get the impression that you know that wouldn't go over well. And I hope you realise that if you start banning smelly foods, virtually all warm foods would have to go, including your bean-based lunch, even if no one has dared to speak up about it before. – Lilienthal Apr 18 '17 at 10:06
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    @BradleyWilson I'm not referring to you specifically banning it, I mean that raising an issue like this with HR, management or an OM will typically lead to either nothing happening or to restrictions being placed on the kinds of food that can be eaten in the office/kitchen. And if a decision is made to ban smelly foods then realistically all food with a noticeable odor has to go, which in turn means virtually every type of lunch that you'd heat up. So that's something you should keep in mind before you raise this issue. – Lilienthal Apr 18 '17 at 10:29
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    @BradleyWilson it is indeed out of scope. My comment was only to point out that you may unintentionally imply that veg food is smelly if you are not careful about it if you decide to talk to someone about it. – PagMax Apr 18 '17 at 11:17

This is your problem, not your colleagues. So you need to deal with it. By all means offer recipes politely, but don't make an issue of her eggs. People might find that hard to understand (I know I would) and it may come off as petty. If you support her diet 100% then that's another reason not to be complaining.

Why not leave the office for lunch or take a break from coding when she is eating her eggs? Most developers I know don't solid code the whole time they're at work, they seem to do it in fits and bursts with a few long periods of coding. Although I assume the non coding times they're cogitating on their work.

Most people can ignore most smells that aren't outright offensive especially when concentrating, so maybe make a conscious effort to do that or put a flower on your desk or something similar. We have a very pleasant but strong scented flower here which many ladies wear behind an ear or in their hair and some men put on their desks I assume for similar reasons at least in part.

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    +1 I really like the flower idea, never really crossed my mind. I will try that and see how it goes. I just don't want any animosity in the office for something as you say could be quite petty. – BIW Apr 18 '17 at 10:58
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    Flower can work well, I'm in the tropics, people can get pretty sweaty by the end of a day sometimes. Lavender is a nice neutralish scent (unfortunately we don't get it here). Good luck. – Kilisi Apr 18 '17 at 11:03
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    Lavender, brilliant.Thankyou @Kilisi – BIW Apr 18 '17 at 11:03
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    Tried out the lavender today and it's highly improved the situation. Thanks again. – BIW Apr 19 '17 at 23:35

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